Collection Analysis is the Future of Librarianship?

Great heads up from Flowing Data about how Data Analysis Is the Future of Journalism (maybe):
http://flowingdata.com/2010/12/08/data-analysis-is-the-future-of-journalism/

They pull a quote from Tim Berners-Lee that got me thinking…:

“Journalists need to be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you’ll do it that way some times.

“But now it’s also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country.”

While this is in reference to journalists, it might be worthwhile for libraries and librarians to heed this suggestion also reframing it as “Collection Analysis is the Future of Librarianship”. Perhaps librarians should be “poring over (collections) and equipping yourself with the tools to analyze it and picking out what’s interesting And keeping it in perspective helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together…” As a whole librarians would do well to be in better touch with our collections… all our collections, not just simply bringing our special collections forward beacause they are hidden… ALL OUR COLLECTION ARE HIDDEN. Librarians could better serve the public well by using… or actually creating tools to make their collections come alive in meaningful ways (librarians use to do this with bibliographies, no?) . Some journalistic endeavors are already moving in this direction. I love how the New York Times creates infographics/interactive media to add new meaning to what is being reported. (See a great collection of these infographics here.). –  In the library world some databases are creating more meaningful connections between their own information source. See what JSTOR has done with their Data for Research tool (DfR) that lets one access and interpret their collection of materials in a variety of ways (visually, chronologically, etc). Want to know when the term “feminist” first appears in their collection of Sociology materials, you can find it. Want to generate a giant list of keywords from a select group of articles, you can do it.

Unfortunately, as a reference & instruction librarian who is asked more and more to teach more and more, I feel slightly removed from the collections our library has. The more removed I am, the more removed my patrons might also be when I interact with them. This “distance” from the collections I serve  is partially my responsibility to remedy but at the same time there is only so much time in the work day.  A work day that is now filled mostly sitting at a reference desk, with library instruction, meeting with students, and various outreach activities. When do I get to sit in my collection areas, instruct myself on its uses, meet with experts in these areas, and create outreach opportunities for materials in the collection?  I tried once to compare our circulation statistics of books on globalization, with the publication date of articles in JSTOR’s DfR, with a chronology of what was going on in the world as an experiment… but this effort was viewed by my peers as having too much time on my hands… which believe me was not true. For me it is a question of what to value… making meaning of our collections or something else. Is it appropriate to sit on the sidelines and wait for the tools to come to me, or would it be more appropriate to be able to carve out some time to create tools specific to the collection?  Innovate? Stagnate? Or wait? Who knows…

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Tags: collections, communication, librarians, libraries, meaning
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